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The Gezi Protests: An Outburst at Turkey’s Shatter-Zone

The purpose of this paper is to examine the social and political causes of the Gezi protests, and their long- and short-term impact on Turkey’s domestic landscape. As part of our endeavor to enrich the conversation over the protests, this paper puts in context both the meaning and media coverage of the Gezi protests. This in turn will explain how on the one hand a protest over a particular environmental dispute escalated into vulgar anti-Erdoğan slogans and wild Tahrir comparisons, but on the other hand faded away without leaving a mark on Turkey’s national political map. Following our analysis of the Gezi Park phenomenon, we will offer our view of its implications.

The Gezi Protests An Outburst at Turkey s Shatter-Zone
Protestors set up an impromptu roadblock in İstanbul, Turkey. EPA
 

Taksim Square, where Gezi Park is located, is Turkish society’s shatter-zone, par excellence. By shatter-zone in socio-political terms, we mean an area where different lifestyles meet and coexist; a space likened to the fissures of society where people take refuge to resist homogenizing processes. Indeed, Taksim is the main shatter-zone of Istanbul, where diverse lifestyles have taken refuge and have resisted against hegemonic ideologies. It is made up of artists, writers, actors, and others who pursue bohemian lifestyles and subscribe to unorthodox ideas. The many bars and cafes, and the people they attract, mark Taksim as the epicenter of anti-establishment gatherings. Keeping in mind the nature of Taksim’s constant social role in Turkey’s public sphere, it is important to note that the events, which took place between May 27 and June 12 in and around Taksim, were not of a political movement, and therefore not to be associated with a political ideology of any kind. Rather, the events were the materialization of Taksim’s long enduring social attitudes. In other words, the fissures engendered an outburst – insofar as it was a sudden, unrestrained, and violent expression of emotion – and series of disjointed social effects. Indeed, the Gezi events were explosions of indignation by those who had long felt excluded and marginalized, almost as a way of life.

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